Highburton CE (VC) First School

Bee Diary 2018

Beekeeping Club meet every Thursday after school to learn about bees, their habitats, how they work and their role in our world. The children are expected to listen carefully to instructions and to ask as many questions as they wish. We spend time with bees and respectfully work to help them build a home and produce honey (hopefully!)

Part 1

During our first week of bee club, we did not have any bees! Over winter our bees had to go elsewhere and we have not got them back yet. However, this gave us a great chance to look at other aspects of bee keeping and get our hands messy!

 

We looked at all the honeycomb that Mrs Smith had removed from last years frames.

Mrs Smith had separated the comb into three containers - dirty, cleaner and honey. Some of the comb was very brown as it had been used by the bees again and again. Other parts were lighter as the bees had not used these cells as often.

Honeycomb is made out of wax so when held it feels brittle but when warmed by hands it is very gooey and sticky in texture. The children had lots of fun snapping it, rolling it, smelling it and moulding it into lots of different shapes. Everybody's hands were so sticky and smelly by the end of it! We could all smell honey as soon as the lids were taken off the tubs.

We also looked at the frames inside the hive.

Frames are what the bees build their cells on. We, as beekeepers give them the foundation to draw out the hexagonal cells that the Queen lays babies in and the bees use to store their honey. We had one full frame for the children to inspect. They all noticed how heavy it was even though it was only half full of honey. When full of honey a frame can weigh up to 8lbs per frame. 

Mrs Smith had cleaned all last years frames so needed the children to help put the new foundation in. This is a bit of a fiddly job but the club worked together and managed to get them all done. Well done team!

Part 2

 This week we learned all about equipment needed for beekeeping. The children spent time putting on suits, cleaning and building a hive as well as making frames for the hive. 

We also tried to get wax out of last years honeycomb. We did this by putting the honeycomb into cheese cloths and adding them to boiling water. Once the pan was back to boiling the wax rose to the top! It was great to see.

"We have turned a solid into a liquid and back into a solid again" one beekeeper said. 

Well done everyone, it was a great day and we all learnt lots!

Part 3

We got our bees this week! Thankfully it was a very sunny week so the bees had a great chance to explore their new area and get out to collect some pollen.

The beekeepers we very excited to meet the bees, some were a little nervous but everyone came to the hive and had a look.

Once in the field the children allput on their suits and gave each other safety checks. They made sure all zips were fastened, the velcro was securely down, gloves were on and suits were tucked into boots. They were very careful and respectful of the environment.

We also inspected the hive for the first time.

After going through the health and safety rules the children were allowed to come close to the hive and help Mrs Smith inspect it. We talked about the three things we need to look for every time - the Queen (larger than the rest and has a yellow spot on her back), brood cells (babies) and stores (honey). We have to fill in a chart and make a note every week so we can see the progress being made and check everything is OK.

They were all thrilled to find there was already lots and lots of bees (probably between 4000 and 7000) as well as some honey! 

We spotted the Queen so we knew everything was going well inside. Can you spot her? She's the biggest bee with the yellow spot on her back. Beekeepers put coloured spots on the Queens back so beekeepers know which year she was born. Queens born in 2018 have a yellow spot on them - this allows beekeepers to spot any new queens in their colony, and it also makes her a lot easier to see when inspecting the hive.

Part 4

  This week we inspected the hive and looked for different types of cells (where babies are). The Queen lays both worker bees (girls) and drones (boys). For a strong colony we need to have lots of workers as they do all the jobs and keep the hive running, a drones only purpose is to mate with a queen. They do not do any work around the hive and therefore there is no need to have lots of them. For every 1000 bees there is usually around 5 drones.

Drone cells are raised up from the comb so easy to spot. Worker bees cells are flat and Queen cells hang down from the comb and are larger than any other type of cell. We looked at the frames carefully and the children were able to spot different types of cells and even noticed the drones walking around amongst the workers. 

If you look at the pictures above you can see different types of cells.

Raised cells have drone (boys) babies in them. Flat, sealed cells have worker (girl) babies in them, cells with a yellow bottom are full of pollen and shiny cells are full of honey. 

Once we had discussed the difference in cells and type of bees the children were able to point them out to me. We also saw workers eating honey, cleaning cells and communicating with each other.